Tuesday, December 1, 2020

On National's Unsafe Attitude Towards Drug Testing

Earlier this week, the Government announced that it was going to pick up one of the loose threads from the previous Parliamentary term - and pass measures to allow the testing of drugs at music festivals and the like, so as to reduce the risk of ... well, serious harm occurring. 

It's a robust, evidence-supported policy that's utterly uncontroversial in other parts of the world (although not Australia) - and therefore, it's perhaps no surprise that the National Party remains bitterly opposed thereto. Because they assert that it "sends the wrong message". 

Which leads me to ponder whether the "right message" is young people dying or being injured in order to "scare the others straight". 

Last Term, it wasn't alone in this. New Zealand First also blocked the bill that'd been put forward - and so it was defeated. But with the makeup of the House having changed considerably since then, it's been brought back for another go. Where it shall pass.  

And predictably, the Nats are somewhat aggrieved about that. 

Partially, it's because the legislation has been brought forward under Urgency - with noted afficionado of Things Young People Like, Simeon Brown, taking issue with the Government's apparent "priorities" as a result. Which, on paper, might sound like a semi-reasonable objection ... up until you consider that it's already early December with the House rising for Summer very shortly, during which time no legislation is passed - and that most of the drug-taking at music festivals etc. tends to take place, likewise, over the Summer. 

Or, phrased another way - it actually makes sense to ensure that legislation that will be most relevant over the summer is in place before the summer. 

However, leaving aside the Parliamentary process side to things (and I'm sure we could find any number of .. curious things the Nats had used Urgency to pass, previously) - it's Simon Bridges who makes the most concise case for why the National Party remain resolutely opposed to seeing sense upon this matter.

Quoth Bridges: "National isn’t supporting the pill testing bill because it sends the wrong message on hard drugs to our young & it gives them a false sense of security. This law may result in more illicit drug use & more harm."

These claims are, substantively, incorrect. Evidence from overseas does NOT show a greater use of drugs as the result of pill testing. 

Indeed, it's not hard to see how the converse is often more likely to be true: after all, what's going to be more effective at getting somebody NOT to consume a pill they've bought. The 'just say no' message that's already evidently failed? Or pointing out that the pill in question tested positive for rat poison - or the delightfully sobriqueted "Dr Death" [less commonly, but more accurately known as 'para-Methoxyamphetamine']. 

Meanwhile, the "false sense of security" is that which recreational drug-users currently may enjoy - by telling themselves that whatever they've bought is, in fact, what they've been told it is. Pill testing can actually help to re-inject not a "false sense of security" ... but a "real sense of danger" - especially when, as is the case in some overseas jurisdictions, drug-harm information for various substances is also given out with the test results. 

Bridges' claim rests upon the reasoning that drug-testing may lead to an increase in drug-harm. It is difficult to see how such a claim can be supported, in light of the fact that drug-testing does not appear to lead to an increase in drug-taking - and also, as its actively intended purpose, keeps the more- and most-harmful drugs OUT of people's bodies in the first place. 

It's simple - if we genuinely want fewer people taking harmful drugs ... we should be making clear which ones the (more) harmful ones are. 

I do appreciate the argument that allowing drug-testing to go ahead may seem like it's providing some sort of moral stamp of validation to the otherwise-illicit conduct in question - but I don't really see it that way; certainly not much more than seat-belts in cars provide a moral stamp of validation for driving fast or drunk and getting into automobile accidents [and I was ... very surprised to find that these sorts of arguments were actually being made against seatbelts becoming mandatory, half a century ago].

The simple truth is that whatever one feels about the morality or the legitimacy of young people (and older people, for that matter), taking drugs at a festival - I don't think many would be prepared to agree that this is a crime that ought carry a potential death sentence to it. 

Even if some, apparently, do implicitly believe this to be the case. I can only presume that they don't say so openly and overtly out of a fear that it would "send the wrong message" to the electorate about their values in practice. 

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